7/29/2008

Kind Lady

The Previous Blog Posts Referenced Within this post can be found in links within the post, but can also be found here:

The Warrior Mother: Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
The Holy Mother of Nisan


Having just finished Time Enough for Love, I feel compelled to blog on the subject.

The book details some of the exploits of the oldest man alive, over two thousand years. It's mostly viewed through the lens of his descendants wanting to record his wisdom, the kind of wisdom one can only accrue from living in four different millenia, two hundred different planets, uncountable professions, etc. No single series of events unifies the story, other than the involvement of Woodrow Wilson Smith in all of them to some degree. Among the primary stories of the book, however, are the story of Woodrow's greatest love, his travelling back in time to meet his birth family, his relationship with a self-aware computer, and his rekindling of his love for life associated with the recording of his previous exploits.

Thematically, the book is about two things (or at least two things stood out to me, there's a lot there): The healing power of love, and the relationship between love and sex.

Heinlein asserts, in a thesis kind of way, that sex is a natural extension of love, and that most social taboos, while they may have served some purpose at some time, are just that, evolutionary tools. As humanity grows beyond their usefulness, they deserve to be dropped. Example: the traditional taboo on incest serves no purpose once genetics advances to the point to pinpoint all possible reinforceable defects. Not that it suddenly makes it a good idea, but it's morally equivalent to having a child with a someone you're unrelated to, who happens to have the same chance of reinforcing an undesirable trait.

Likewise, he seems to suggest that concerns about monogamy, adultery, birth control, and so forth might have been pragmatic at some point, but have outlived their usefulness. He argues (indirectly, of course) that sex is a natural extension of love, and for those who are capable of loving many people at once, there's no reason why they shouldn't.

This is somewhat amusing because, to a large degree, Robert Heinlein is clearly just a very dirty old man, the kind that you call the school about when you find out that he's coaching your 16 year old daughter's volleyball team. And yet, he's a good enough writer, and adamant enough about love that it's difficult to be put off by his emphasis on sex. As Natalie said when I was discussing the book, "He's a dirty old man, but he's a very genteel dirty old man."

Which brings me to my second point. In the subplot about the main character finally tiring of life, and then rekindling his passion, a woman named Tamara is brought in, who is, essentially, a prostitute. Of course, in Heinlein's world, without social taboos, prostitution is elevated to an art form, not unlike any other performance based skill. Woodrow describes what he suffers from as a sickness, and says that Tamara cured him. Not just (though it is involved) by sleeping with him, but by her sheer presence, care, and love.

So appears the second theme of the book. Heinlein asserts that love by itself heals, or, more specifically, that in these people (almost exclusively women, possibly reflecting a reality, or possibly just a bias on the author's part) who have the healing touch, the most important quality is an unfathomable capacity for love.

It's important to note the cause-effect relationship here. These women have enough love in their hearts for the entire world, and sex is a natural extension of love. They are so good at what they do because they truly love each and every one of their clients. The fact that they can make money loving people is a happy coincidence in Heinlein's world, which in no way cheapens the experience itself.

The healing power of love, and the archetype of the woman that has enough love in their heart for the entire world are common themes. (Heinlein's Healer Archetype has a high co-occurrence rate with The Warrior Mother, though it's worth noting that they aren't quite the same thing)

Xenogears, among numerous others, makes the same assertion (the tremendous healing power of being loved by the right person), though I chose this one in particular because the woman who has enough love in her heart for the entire world is so cleanly crystallized in the form of Elly.

Since Elly figured so heavily into my definition of The Warrior Mother, I think it's time I elucidate the difference between the two, and slightly amend my definition of both.

Both archetypes, The Warrior Mother and Heinlein's Healer, have this mysterious power used for some kind of healing. Both are almost exclusively women. (Usually because a power that's deeply seated in pacifism and healing is thought of as a traditionally female quality)

However, first of all, the Healer, as it appears in Time Enough for Love is not a multidimensional character, while the Warrior Mother almost always necessitates a character arc. (which I explain here) Secondly, the Warrior Mother still loves, but she loves fiercely, compared to the gentle passion of the Healer. The relevant analogy, as was mentioned before, is to a she-bear. She's selfless, and loves her cubs, but will absolutely kick your ass if you mess with them, and is much more likely to do so if you threaten those she loves than if you threaten her.

That being said, I think my original list needs to be revised. Mist (Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance), Schala (Chrono Trigger/Chrono Cross), Yuna (Final Fantasy 10), Aeris (Final Fantasy 7), and a few others from the list, are really versions of Heinlein's Healer. Female, quiet, humble to the point of lack of self-awareness, and charged with some great duty because of the immensely positive quality of their soul.

The Warrior Mother archetype, more accurately defined, doesn't necessitate that their love be all encompassing, merely that they love, and do so with a fierce conviction. Since their power more often implies violence, they are more disposed towards coming of age stories associated with mastering their power. Likewise, their power is more often clearly defined, though often just as magical. For those of curious, Terra (Final Fantasy 6), Marona (Phantom Brave), Lufia (Lufia and the Fortress of Doom), and Elly (Xenogears) stay on the list.

Elly, in fact, (and by Extension, Nausicaa, more on that later) is the perfect embodiment of both archetypes at once. She is quiet, doubts herself, must come to terms with her power, fights and kills to protects those she loves, is capable of loving the entirety of humanity at once, and has some sort of magical power associated with her love that allows her to heal the hearts of those around her.

Next, why are these archetypes so popular, and so powerful?

4 comments:

Natalie said...

This is kind of an unrelated thought, but it might bear on the question of why these archetypes are so enduring. Up here in the Bay Area one often runs into an undercurrent of sentiment that whether one is (for lack of a better term) a dirty old man is irrelevant to the validity of the sexual mores that one professes. When it comes to Heinlein, I can't help but feel like that's not true - that on some level, his DOM status does taint the validity of his ideas. But here's the thing: he nevertheless makes me wish the world worked the way he proposes.

I find that very interesting. I'm not about to restructure my sex and family life like Woodrow's (or like Valentine Michael Smith's, to take another well-known example from Heinlein). But the fact that I sort of want to makes me suspect there's something in this archetype that points out both what is not true about the human condition and something that we want to make true.

William said...

Well, the dirty old man idea contains the assumption of a high sex drive, so if you advocate any standpoint that invovles more sexual activity (particularly for you) than you are currently enjoying, one would think it would HAVE to be kind of suspect, right?

I think you're on to something when it comes to these archetypes pointing to something we wish were true. I'll have to run with that when I follow up on this.

orange-fell said...

You really ought to read some stuff by Theodore Sturgeon now. Really. Really, really. I'll lend it to you. Or buy it for you. Please let me warp your mind!!
--------------
I'm also sort of curious to know what you would think of Jacquelyn Carey's original "Kushiel's Dart" series. It's a whole other ballpark/universe (I'll let you look it up on your own, heh) but also undeniably ties in to the themes of love, sex, and religion, and in a very distinctive way. Yay heresy?

Well, anyway, I keep a notebook of quotes on the meaning of love, and both of the above authors are in there.

William said...

I was under the impression that Kushiel's Dart was primarily an exploration of the idea of masochism. Am I off base, or is that the concept that you're driving at?